Friday :: Sep 17, 2010

Senate Races: Separating Contenders from Pretenders

by CA Pol Junkie

It's September. The first chill is in the air, the leaves are starting to turn color, and in baseball the contenders are being separated from the pretenders. So it is in politics, as hype begins to meet reality. The Republicans are fortunate that in a year like this one a few candidates disconnected from reality will actually win, but many others will go no farther than the fantasies of Tea Partiers.

The situation is actually pretty volatile right now. That's natural for a midterm election, which don't attract as much attention from voters as in presidential years. Generic Republican support among the voters probably peaked on Labor Day and their advantage will probably lessen as we get closer to Election Day. As more Democrats become engaged in the election, generic polls of the House are moderating to about a 5 point Republican advantage after several polls had put the GOP up 10 points right before Labor Day.

With the primary season complete outside of Hawaii, the Senate situation is becoming more clear. Prognosticators like the Cook Political Report, CQ Politics, and the esteemed Nate Silver all portray outlooks that look pretty grim for Democrats, with even control of the chamber (Republicans gaining 10 seats) in play. These analyses are largely based on polling right now, not necessarily what the vote will be in November. Here's the real scoop of the races:

Democratic Held Seats
Slam-Dunk Republican Takeover
1. North Dakota: Popular governor John Hoeven will easily dispatch Democrat Tracy Potter to take the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan.
2. Arkansas: Republican John Boozman will defeat friendless Democrat Blanche Lincoln by a margin rarely seen for an incumbent.

Republican Leads, Democrat Pretends
3. Indiana: Establishment Republican Dan Coats will reclaim his Senate seat. Democrats have a strong nominee, but no Democrat not named Bayh would be able to win in Indiana this year.

Republican Leads, Democrat Contends
4. Pennsylvania: Republican Pat Toomey is an uncompromising conservative, but this is the state that elected Rick Santorum twice. Democrat Joe Sestak should be able to keep this race in single digits, but the dynamics of the race would have to change for Sestak to win.

Democrat Leads, Republican Contends
5. Colorado: Appointed Democrat Michael Bennet wouldn't have much chance against a mainstream Republican, but Ken Buck is playing for Team Crazy. This year, Buck has a shot (and he currently leads in some polls) but the sheer magnitude of his crazy gives Bennet the opportunity. This is shaping up to be the closest race of the year.
6. Nevada: Harry Reid is deeply unpopular and would not have a chance had Republicans nominated someone sane. Thankfully, the GOP nominated Sharron Angle, and Reid's standing in the polls has been improving since the primary, and that will only continue as Reid uses his cash to make sure every Nevadan knows how crazy Angle is.
7. Wisconsin: Democrat Russ Feingold will never win in a landslide, but he has a loyal following and drew Team Crazy Republican Ron Johnson for an opponent. Although Rasmussen polls show a very tight race, Wisconsin will not be inclined to elect someone who wants to drill for oil in the Great Lakes.
8. Illinois: Both Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Democrat Mark Kirk have their flaws, but Kirk has enough baggage so he's not likely to overcome the Democratic lean of the state.

Democrat Leads, Republican Pretends
9. Washington: Democratic incumbent Patty Murray is running against two-time gubernatorial loser Republican Dino Rossi. Defeating a Democratic incumbent in a Democratic state isn't easy, and Rossi isn't a strong enough candidate to do it.
10. California: Polls show a close race between Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican Carly Fiorina, but that won't last. Boxer has a history of looking like she's in trouble in September only to win easily. Boxer has started to unleash her campaign war chest, so we should see the polls move her way soon. There's no way in hell California will elect a pro-life Republican to the Senate. Not going to happen.
11. West Virginia: The state is trending Republican and it is a Republican year, but Democrats have popular governor Joe Manchin running.
12. Delaware: Thanks to the Tea Party, Republicans nominated Christine O'Donnell, who Delaware GOP chair Tom Ross says could not be elected dog catcher. Democrats and their candidate, Chris Coons, lucked out here.

Republican Held Seats
Republican Leads, Democrat Contends
1. New Hampshire: Republican nominee Kelly Ayotte barely squeaked out of her primary and hasn't exactly lit the state on fire with her campaigning. In a Republican year, it might not take much to put her over the top but Democrat Paul Hodes could certainly win with a good campaign.

Republican Leads, Democrat Pretends
2. Kentucky: Recent Kentucky Senate races have been remarkably close, Republican candidate Rand Paul is crazy, and Democrats have a strong candidate in Jack Conway, but it's a Republican state in a Republican year.
3. Missouri: Republican nominee Roy Blunt has said some things he regrets, his son was a scandal plagued governor, and Democrats drew a strong nominee in Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, but this is a Republican leaning state in a Republican year.
4. Ohio: Republican nominee is establishment Republican Rob Portman, but this year that should be enough for him to defeat Democratic Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher.
5. North Carolina: Republican Richard Burr is a weak incumbent, but it's a Republican state in a Republican year.
6. Florida: Democrats have a toxic situation in the three-way race between Republican Marco Rubio, Independent Charlie Crist, and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Crist and Meek are attacking each other and leaving the path clear for Rubio to be elected with a plurality.

So there you have it. Democrats lose about 4 seats. There certainly is more downside potential on the Democratic side, but Election Day won't necessarily be the bloodbath the pundits are talking about. Control of the Senate really is not in play.

CA Pol Junkie :: 8:45 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!